Around this time every year, the typical stories undergo a good dusting from feathered brooms and aerosol cleaners. After spending an entire offseason hoping for "change", the base must be reinvigorated to believe in their starting quarterback again. It happened in 2012, then again in 2013. Jay Gruden usually leads that charge, praising Dalton's ability to throw the football. "You can never judge improvement until we start playing games," Gruden said during camp in '13. "He is more confident in his anticipation. He's always been accurate but he has a better feel in what we do with the concepts." Dalton translated that by surpassing career-highs in yards passing (4,293) last year, touchdowns scored (35... 33 passing) and passer rating (88.8).
This year's Dalton-is-improving story comes from Hue Jackson (the team's newest offensive coordinator after Gruden departed for Washington):
"I've been impressed with him since I've gotten to be the coordinator, but I've been really impressed with him over the last couple of days," Jackson said via Bengals.com. "I think he’s really starting to buy into the urgency, getting the ball out of his hands and making great decisions."
At this rate, Dalton may break league records now that he's firmly addressed several team records... like yards passing and touchdowns thrown. Though the old perspective goes... he dominates clean-up games against inferior defenses but struggles under pressure against teams considered equal. Those perceptions will exist until they don't. Yet there's more hope in Dalton's progressive abilities that it may translate.
"Very calm. Very assured of what he's doing and how he's doing it and where he needs to go with the ball," Jackson said via ESPN. "There's good communication when he comes off. Even when things didn't go right he could tell me why, what he felt. And that's what you've got to look for. A quarterback's got to be poised. He's been very in control of when things have gone really good and when things have gone really bad. That's a good sign."
Despite Cincinnati's insistence that they do not record statistics during scrimmages, some media tabulations had Dalton completing 17 of 20-23 passes for over 200 yards (203 per the Enquirer) on Saturday (and that excludes two major completions to A.J. Green, who wiped out his own completions due to offensive pass interference). Five of those completions went to Tyler Eifert -- Dalton's favorite target whom Bengals.com couldn't put on the website due to the complicated nature of "hybrid" definitions.
Forget Dalton... how about Eifert having a breakout year this season?
Though it is kind of funny expecting Dalton to have a breakout season, considering the achievements and numbers he's compiled. Three consecutive playoff seasons (with slight help from the defense), single-season records... things that Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason have never touched. Yet Dalton is the recipient of spiteful fans (the minority of the base) that think they know the NFL better while hoping for a fifth-round draft pick to supplant Dalton, who will most likely be in Cincinnati for the next decade. Way to crusade a meager cause within a recreational activity that's meant to be stress-free and fun.
ESPN's Coley Harvey is even impressed with Dalton's progression.
Passes that Dalton struggled to deliver last season, he's hitting. Progressions he might have missed or didn't get to before, he's spotting. Personality traits that some thought he lacked, he's suddenly got those, too.
We'll find out this Thursday when Cincinnati opens their preseason schedule in Kansas City.